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  1. #1
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    Army

    Default A True American Hero Has Died

    I am at such a loss for words right now, that I'm not entirely sure I can do this man the justice he deserves. I received word this morning that he is no longer with us, and I am so sick to my stomach and torn apart by emotions, that I can't even fathom the news of his passing being true.

    Harold Kellihan is a true American hero, and someone that you likely have never heard of. He was a member of the 101st Airborne Division during the Vietnam War, and loved his country and family more than anybody I have ever met.

    In 1965 when his division first arrived in Vietnam, he was eager to go straight into the action. He got his wish, and was nearly killed on his first mission. He was part of a detachment flying over southern Vietnam. Their job was simple - fly in, get on the ground, and work a recon mission. Unfortunately, they grossly misjudged the enemy. On his first jump in country, he was shot repeatedly within seconds of his chute being deployed. Rather than continue to be shot and likely killed, he made the decision to cut his chute and take his chances. Upon landing, he had broken his and several ribs. Along with the 6 bullet wounds he had suffered during his descent, he was understandably in agony. Wounded, bleeding and barely able to move, he began to drag himself and his rifle, and continued toward his target. He used every survival technique he had ever learned, and took out several enemies while he laid there for nearly 24 hours before help arrived. He was flown to a treatment center for his wounds, and told he would likely be shipping out when he healed. Rather than accept that fate, he successfully petitioned to be returned to full active duty and went back into combat.

    In 1967, during his 3rd tour, he was again wounded during a recon mission, when he hit a trip wire that nearly blew off his legs. He was left in constant agony the rest of his life from this injury, as it took out large baseball sized chunks of flesh from his right leg. But he never quit, he didn't have it in him. As he flew in a helicopter once again headed for treatment, the helicopter he was in was shot down. He and a fellow soldier survived, but the other soldier had broken his neck from the impact. In his words, he still had one good leg, so he fashioned a makeshift gurney out of bamboo and began to drag his fellow soldier for help. When he arrived at a place he believed was safe, he heard helicopters and set off a smoke bomb to signal for a medivac.

    While the helicopter was about to arrive, shot began to ring out around him. To protect his fallen comrade and the safety of the helicopter and crew, he charged into the jungle toward the gunfire to hold off the enemy, and was taken prisoner. He spent nearly a year in a prison camp where he was repeatedly tortured and burned, leaving scars all over his face and chest for the rest of his life.

    His list of accomplishments was amazing, his list of medals even more amazing. For his service in Vietnam, he received several Purple Hearts, a Bronze Star, the Distinguished Service Cross, and several other awards and recognitions. After Vietnam, he continued to work for the government, always willing to go above and beyond for his country.

    I first met him as a child, when I became friends with his son Andrew. Harold used to tell me his stories all the time, and loved showing off pictures and awards. He never did brag though. He would tell me what each thing was, and why he received it, but always pointed out that he didn't believe he deserved some of the things he received, because he was simply doing his job to the best of his ability and defending his country. He was a mentor to me growing up, and a big part of my life for the past 20 years. He taught me honor and love of country, and to always fight for what you believe in and never give up until you're dead.

    Even though I wasn't family, he always made me feel like family. He took me on vacation with their family several times, always had me over for dinner, and loved to talk about the military and politics. It's hard to imagine a world without him in it, but everything must come to an end. This man was a true American hero, truly one in a million, and one of the greatest people I will ever know. He passed away in his sleep on Saturday, without a fight and without a sound. Quietly, just as he always liked it. Even fighting brain cancer, he never once complained of the pain, but instead was grateful for every day he was given. A true fighter to the end.

    Harold Kellihan, thank you for your service, and thank you for the lessons you have given me in life. You will be dearly missed and never forgotten. I love you buddy, rest in peace.
    Last edited by Nobody; 10-12-11 at 08:15 AM.
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  2. #2
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    Sorry for your loss. Guy sounded like a true bad ass. It's good that the country has foks like him

    One of my favorite Patton quotes

    It is foolish and wrong to mourn the men who died. Rather we should thank God that such men lived.
    Last edited by Sarge; 10-11-11 at 11:49 AM.
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    Formerly known as ...............Sarge

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sarge View Post
    Sorry for your lose. Guy sounded like a true bad ass. It's good that the country has foks like him

    One of my favorite Patton quotes

    It is foolish and wrong to mourn the men who died. Rather we should thank God that such men lived.
    Thank you Sarge. The guy was as bad ass as you can get. His stories reminded me a lot of Oliver North.

    A non military story of badassery with him was when we went fishing in Nags head one year. We were out there in the surf before sunrise and had already caught a cooler full of fish and were working on the second cooler. His line caught a snag, so he pulled out his fillet knife to cut the line. While he was doing it, a wave knocked him on his ass, and he got up with the knife through his hand. Rather than go to the doctor, he pulled out the knife, cut off a piece of his shirt, and tied it off on his hand. His exact quote was, "No way I'm gonna let a flesh wound ruin my day, the fishing is too good."

    Later in the week, it became infected and he ended up getting an antibiotic IV drip, but **** man, who does that? Lol.
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  4. #4
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    St. Mary's

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    Wow. His life is impressive. I say is because death doesn't change the life he lived. I love meeting people like him.

    The challenge his and others' sacrifices pose for the rest of us is to live a life worthy of all that has been sacrificed for us to live as we do. I first felt that way listening to my grandfather describe serving during WWII, but it real struck home when a seal instructor told my wife and me that what we do with kids is why he and his men fight. I was touched and shocked, and I don't think about it as anything different or unusual. He said that's why he takes stories like our back for motivation because their work lets us live a good life without thinking it exceptional. We can have great expectations. Their lives let us live dreams.
    Last edited by gbear; 10-11-11 at 11:12 AM.
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  5. #5
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    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by gbear View Post
    Wow. His life is impressive. I say is because death doesn't change the life he lived. I love meeting people like him.

    The challenge his and others' sacrifices pose for the rest of us is to live a life worthy of all that has been sacrificed for us to live as we do. I first felt that way listening to my grandfather describe serving during WWII, but it real struck home when a seal instructor told my wife and me that what we do with kids is why he and his men fight. I was touched and shocked, and I don't think about it as anything different or unusual. He said that's why he takes stories like our back for motivation because their work lets us live a good life without thinking it exceptional. We can have great expectations. Their lives let us live dreams.
    Well said. It's times like these that really make you think about the sacrifices others have made to give us the ability to do what we do today.
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  6. #6
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    Sorry for your loss, Extreme.

    We're in a period where we are losing a lot of our heroes. Everyday we lose more heroes from WWII and now Vietnam Vets are reaching the same point in their lives.

    I wish I had spent more time with several of these men and recorded their stories.

    Prayers for you and his family.
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